DIY Spring Planning It’s the Winter Cabin Fever Cure!

DIY Spring Planning you ask? During a Winter weather advisory? Well, why Not?? Its better than looking out at a snow covered ranch, and in my experience it is the best cure for these cold snowy days. You know, the ones when you wish you could be outside enjoying the sunshine, until you step outside, then you want to be inside under a blanket by the fire! Wal-Mart.com USA, LLC

One of my biggest challenges here at the ranch homestead has been planning, planting and maintaining a successful vegetable garden as well as a couple of fruit trees and berry bushes. The first year, I didn’t live here full time, so I opted for just a few container gardens. I soon learned, the container you select is as important if not more important than seed selection. With limited options around the farm, and a budget that was already stretched to the limit            

Planting the first Rose bush at Rose Ridge!

because of John and I’s upcoming wedding, I choose a couple of large wood bins that were already here. The problem was I didn’t realize they had at one point been treated with something, something my tomato, lettuce,and pepper plants definitely did NOT like! We managed to get enough to make a small salad or two, but that was about it. 

The following year, I planned a little better. Or so I thought! By then we lived at the ranch full time, so that meant we could go with a bigger full vegetable garden. I sent away for catalogs, and got more choices than I thought possible! I knew with Iowa having a longer growing season than my previous home state of Michigan, I could raise a bumper crop if I started early enough!

I found a video online about how to build a DIY greenhouse, and though I don’t recall now how I found the video online, my husband and I realized we could build one for about the same as buying a smaller unit retail. So he went to buy lumber and cattle panels, and I started ordering seeds from three different catalogs. Once we had the structure built, my husband used his tractor to move it to its present location, we bought the required plastic to cover the structure, and added one door and one small window. I started bringing in seed pots, planting and labeled everything, and John used his tractor and plow and tilled up a good sized garden right behind the new Greenhouse.

I loved my new greenhouse, and the deer that roam are always welcome!

Now we should have watched that video a bit closer, if we had we would have realized that the one small window we used, because it was one we had on hand, was not going to provide nearly enough ventilation to keep the right temperature in the greenhouse. We also should have taken into consideration that had we set the greenhouse a little closer to electricity we could have used a fan and probably compensated well enough for the small window to keep the little bean, tomato, pepper, onion, lettuce, spinach, and pea sprouts happy and healthy. What hindsight is always 20/20 right??  What happened was after spending a decent amount of money on seeds, planting soil, pots, trays, and fertilizer, once temperatures started rising over 60 degrees, most of the little sprouts pretty much cooked in the greenhouse. Then I had to go to the local store and buy more veggies, ones already started to try and catch back up with my great DIY Spring Plan for the garden!   I purchased most of what I had lost, and got busy planting and for the first two months we had tomatoes, green peppers, banana peppers, jalapenos, lettuce, cucumbers, and even a couple kohlrabi!

Then in August, we were gone on vacation, and evidently a hoard of nasty bugs of different varieties descended while we were away.   We had little flat brown things, mid sized black things, wasps making the greenhouse a dangerous place, and also these big, fat, green worms.  I later learned they are called horn worms because of the little red pointed “horn” they have for a tail.  Note to self and my readers….(yup I learned this the hard way)…do NOT get mad at the worms, knock them off your tomatoes and step on the nasty buggers!!…they are squishy and make a disgusting mess!

By the time 2017 rolled around, I was ready, I went bigger and moved the tomatoes and peppers, the two things that seemed to be the bugs favorite plants to eat and destroy, to the other side of the garden.  I added kale, pumpkin, tomatillos, cabbage, spinach, watermelon, cauliflower, strawberries, and zucchini to our garden plot.  Things went better this time around, sort of!   Our free ranging hen girls I thought would be a great help keeping the bugs down.  Well they did that, but they also developed a taste for strawberries, cucumbers, and tomatoes.  As if that wasn’t enough of a problem,  I went from working 20-24 hours a week to working full time, and my garden suffered I am afraid.    I struggled to find time to keep it weeded, watered, to even have time to get out and pick the ripe veggies and bring them in.  Of course then you

Garden Goulash, Yummy!

have to find time to cook them so they don’t go to waste…. oy!   We gave a great deal away, but I did find time to try my hand at a couple of recipes, one I call garden goulash, and a homemade spicy salsa made with just the right amount of tomatillos and jalapeno!   

So here it is 2018, I am still working full time, and while I want to have a garden of course, I also don’t want to have any more costly mistakes or guilt because I didn’t plan well enough.   I have come to realize I could beat myself up over all the many oops-es and goof ups. or I can take a deep breath, laugh at myself, Lord knows I have a funny story… .(Did I mention back in 2016 I had these grand visions of a quaint little “Rose Ridge Acres Vegetable and Bakery” stand?)  and I can learn from what I have done wrong, and be confident that with the right attitude…I will have much better luck this year!   Thanks for reading and Be Blessed!

Plow & Hearth